Roads of Hartley

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The Great Western Road

Of Governor Darling's three 'Great Roads' only the Great Western Road has retained its character, albeit that in 1927 it became the Great Western Highway.

Minor deviations from its start at the obelisk in Macquarie Place, from which all New South Wales roads emanating from Sydney were measured, had occurred until the construction of the M4, Western Motorway, brought significant new alignment changes from Concord, (originally Longbottom), to Blaxland, the site of the Pilgrim Inn at the top of Lapstone Hill.

 

From there to Mount Victoria the road follows the same ridge line travelled by Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth in 1813 and first developed as a road by William Cox in 1814.

 

Small detachments of the garrison were located at several stations along the road, Longbottom, Parramatta, Emu (Emu Plains), the Weatherboard Hut (Wentworth Falls), Cox's River and Bathurst. Their tasks were to check the passes of travellers on the road and to apprehend escaping convicts.

 

At Bathurst a small garrison had initially been established under a commandant to provide guards for an experimental agricultural settlement but the garrison was augmented later as protection from bushrangers and from members of the Wiradjuri tribe when they began to react to the usurpation of their traditional hunting grounds by a growing number of settlers. Beyond Bathurst another experimental agricultural station had been established at Wellington in 1823 and a post set up at Molong in 1827; guard detachments at the latter location were drawn from the Bathurst garrison and consequently do not appear in Monthly Returns. Neither of these detachments became involved with any convict road parties.

 

Few improvements to the Great Western Road beyond Emu Plains occurred until 1830 when Governor Darling tasked Surveyor General Mitchell to seek a better line of road than existed on Cox's Pass down Mount York, which, in places, had gradients of one in four.

 

Mitchell found a suitable line, around Mt Victoria, with the steepest gradient only one in fifteen, and work commenced immediately on the new line of road. Mitchell had named Mount Victoria 'after the young princess' (1) but the Sydney Herald announced the new pass as Vittoria, the great Peninsular battle obviously of more immediate note than 'the young princess. Unfortunately, the error was repeated in Monthly Returns and other military documents and even by Assistant Surveyor Govett in his Sketches from New South Wales.

The first, or No 1, stockade for road parties was built at the bottom of Victoria Pass. Govett described it:

 
   It was situated about half a mile from the Pass, upon a gentle 
   rising ground above the swamp at the bottom. Near the stockade were 
   the barracks for the soldiers, constables' huts, and a small 
   cottage, etc., for the officers; on the opposite side of the swamp 
   was the residence of the commissariat officer, a neat thatched 
   cottage, and a store house built of logs.' (2) 

The Monthly Return for March 1831 shows only small detachments at various posts on the road from Emu Plains but in June of that year a detachment of the 39th, the Dorsetshire Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant John Fitzgerald, with one sergeant and 24 Rank and File, is shown at 'Vittoria'; they were relieved by Ensign Owen, 17th Regiment, with a detachment of similar strength, reaching its greatest strength in June 1832 when Captain Church, with one subaltern, three sergeants and 61 Rank and File of the 17th Regiment were there.

 

The Pass was opened by Governor Bourke on 23 October 1832. By December 1832 the detachment had been reduced to one sergeant and 10 Rank and File, disappearing from the Monthly Returns the following month. There was a road party located in huts, probably of bark, about three miles east of Mount Victoria, in April 1831.

 

 Surveyor General Mitchell mentioned it in a letter taking Govett to task for carrying out surveys in areas other than 'as directed'. (3) There is no record of any guard detachment at that site. If it continued after the opening of No 1 Stockade at the base of the pass, it most likely would have been manned as an outpost of the main camp.

 

 
_______William Cox
Original road across Mountains, 1815.
Cox's Pass, Mt York down to Hartley Vale. 1815-23.
 
________Lawson's Long Alley, Lt. William Lawson, supersedes Cox's Pass, 1824.
________Bell's Line of Road, Archibold Bell, Richmond to Hartley via Bell.
 
________Lockyer's Line of Rd, west from Mt York. 1829. Not completed.
________Victoria Pass, Maj. Thomas Mitchell, 1832.
.................Berghofer's Pass 1912-35.
_ _ _ _ _ _ Sir Thomas Brisbane - proposed road
_ _ _ _ _ Hamilton Hume's Line of Road, west from Bell, 1827.

 

Map, West Escarpment, Blue Mountains, Australia
Source: http://www.infobluemountains.net.au/history/west_escarpment.htm

The Lett River, originally River Lett, got it's name as a result of an explorer not knowing how to spell  'rivulet'.

The Great Western Highway follows Cox's route to the Mt York turn-off, then Mitchell's route, and finally Brisbane's route.

 

Convicts working to the plans of Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, Surveyor General built Mitchell's Causeway at Victoria Pass in 1831 located 2 kilometres west of Mt.Victoria.

After the extension of the railway over the Blue Mountains in the 1860s the mountain roads were used less and less and many parts fell into decay. The introduction and spread of the motorcar in Australia after 1905 brought roads back into importance, while at the same time, the Blue Mountains had become a favoured holiday location for people from the city. During the early stages of their use, the motorcars of the period were not powerful enough to scale the incline at Victoria Pass. A local Councillor J.W.Berghofer, the first president of Blaxland Shire, lobbied for the construction of an easier alternative (Karskens, 1988:9).

An extensive deviation was subsequently constructed below the old viaduct on the slopes facing north. This deviation, which became known as Berghofer's Pass, was constructed between 1907 and 1912. The pass featured rubble retaining walls, stone and pipe culverts and substantial cuttings. Berghofer?s Pass curved sharply along the mountain?s edge crossing the old road to Mt York near the junction with Lawson's Long Alley.

By 1920, motor vehicles had become powerful enough to negotiate the old viaduct. It is probable that the retaining wall at Mt.Victoria was also built at or around this time. For a time both roads were used, however in 1933-34 the then Department of Main Roads improved Victoria Pass by widening it and reconstructing the gravel pavement. The deep loop at the base of the pass (still in use) was also constructed to replace the somewhat irregular alignment of Berghofer's Pass. Victoria Pass was later surfaced with bitumen (Karskens, 1988:9).

 
 

Convicts working to the plans of Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, Surveyor General built Mitchells Causeway at Victoria Pass in 1831 located 2 kilometres west of Mt.Victoria.

After the extension of the railway over the Blue Mountains in the 1860s the mountain roads were used less and less and many parts fell into decay.

The introduction and spread of the motorcar in Australia after 1905 brought roads back into importance, while at the same time, the Blue Mountains had become a favoured holiday location for people from the city. During the early stages of their use, the motorcars of the period were not powerful enough to scale the incline at Victoria Pass. A local Councillor J.W.Berghofer, the first president of Blaxland Shire, lobbied for the construction of an easier alternative (Karskens, 1988:9).

An extensive deviation was subsequently constructed below the old viaduct on the slopes facing north. This deviation, which became known as Berghofer's Pass, was constructed between 1907 and 1912. The pass featured rubble retaining walls, stone and pipe culverts and substantial cuttings. Berghofer?s Pass curved sharply along the mountain?s edge crossing the old road to Mt York near the junction with Lawson's Long Alley.

By 1920, motor vehicles had become powerful enough to negotiate the old viaduct. It is probable that the retaining wall at Mt.Victoria was also built at or around this time. For a time both roads were used, however in 1933-34 the then Department of Main Roads improved Victoria Pass by widening it and reconstructing the gravel pavement. The deep loop at the base of the pass (still in use) was also constructed to replace the somewhat irregular alignment of Berghofer's Pass. Victoria Pass was later surfaced with bitumen (Karskens, 1988:9).